By Josh Brown
PLEASANT HILL — Bunting runners over, bunting for hits, getting ahead in counts on the mound and getting the lead runners out on defense.
The Newton baseball team executed all the small things that don’t typically show up in box scores — but make a difference on the scoreboard.
Starter Nash Lavy scattered four hits in a complete game effort, the defense made plays behind him and the Indian hitters found ways to manufacture runs all through the lineup in a 7-2 victory over the Bethel Bees on Senior Night Thursday at Newton.
And while the Indians (14-8, 6-6 Cross County Conference) honored their three seniors — Wade Ferrell, Andrew Dilts and the injured Bryan Delcamp — it was the sophomore Lavy driving the action on the field.
“It all starts with good pitching, and that’s what Nash Lavy gave us,” Newton coach Nathan Kopp said. “Nash didn’t throw a lot at the beginning of the season, but he’s been Mr. Consistent for us lately.
“He struck out three, walked three, scattered four hits, gave up one earned run. Threw a 101-pitch complete game. That’s right in that good range where you’re not going too deep in counts. He’d get ahead, throw two strikes and not have to give guys fastballs when they were looking for them in hitters’ counts.”
“Our approach at the plate, we had some at-bats that hurt us,” Bethel coach Brett Brookhart said. “But you’ve got to give there pitcher credit. Against a guy like that, you get so anxious, and we were so far out in front all night. We were swinging defensively from the start. He really kept us off-balance and kept us guessing all night.”
The Indians also gave Lavy all the support he’d end up needing in the first inning.
After Bethel (10-11, 5-6 CCC) scored in the top of the first on a two-out RBI single by Hunter Shelley, Ryan Mollette singled sharply to left to lead off the Newton half of the inning and Ferrell drew a walk. Rhett Gipe then pulled a double down the left-field line that the wind blew back fair, driving in the tying run. Nelson Clymer hit an RBI groundout, then Lavy put down a squeeze bunt for an RBI base hit that gave the Indians a 3-1 lead.
The Indians drew a pair of two-out walks to load the bases, chasing the Bees’ starter in favor of lefty Sam McKenny, who struck the No. 9 hitter out looking to end the inning without further damage.
“We knew coming in, with their coaches being former players of mine, what they’d do,” Brookhart said. “We knew they’d bunt and play smallball, and it just puts so much pressure on us and on our defense when we walk guys like that. We had three walks in that first inning, but I thought Sam came in and did a really nice job for us the rest of the way.”
The Bees also got back to within a run in the top of the second as Zach Cohee was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on an error, but that was all the offense Lavy allowed the rest of the way. Bethel left eight runners stranded on base — five in scoring position.
“I thought, here we go,” Brookhart said of cutting the lead to 3-2. “But then we just didn’t have that many good at-bats. We’ve got to be able to score more than two runs.”
Five times in the game, the Newton defense — which did commit a pair of early errors — got the lead runner on ground balls.
“When you’re up four or five runs, you want to take outs any way you can get them,” Kopp said. “We did a good job of getting the lead runners. That will be important come tournament time in keeping guys from getting into scoring position.”
Newton added another run in the third on an RBI groundout by Austin Evans, then another RBI squeeze bunt by Lavy and a run-scoring error in the fourth made it 6-2 Newton. And in the fifth, Dilts led off with his second bunt single of the game and Evans walked, but Dilts was doubled off second on a popped-up bunt to Bethel catcher Riley Shaffer. Evans stole second, though, and was driven in on an RBI single by Ferrell to make it 7-2 — and Lavy and the defense did the rest.
Gipe finished 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, Ferrell was 2 for 3 with an RBI, Dilts was 2 for 3 and Lavy was 1 for 3 with two RBIs. Clymer and Evans also scored a run and had one RBI each, and Treg Jackson and Mollette each scored a run.
“We did some good things hitting-wise,” Kopp said. “Wade and Rhett had two hits each, and Andrew had two bunts for hits. That’s 16 bunt hits on the year for him now. He’s done a great job of owning that as a good skill and utilizing his speed.”
Tyler Brueckman had half of the Bees’ hits, going 2 for 4, Shelley was 1 for 4 with an RBI and Kenton Egbert was 1 for 3.
Newton hosts Houston Friday, while the Bees face National Trail to kick off sectional tournament play on Monday before hosting a regular season makeup against Franklin Monroe Tuesday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.